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Star Ferry loss hits HK$70 million, employee salary in jeopardy

Star Ferry loss hits HK$70 million, employee salary in jeopardy

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Hong Kong's iconic tourist attraction the Star Ferry said it has been losing money since mid-2019 and it now needs to borrow money to handle the cost of daily operations, as its revenue can no longer cover the salaries of employees. Multiple media reports including the Hong Kong Economic Journal said the Star Ferry has accumulated losses of more than HK$70 million (US$8.9 million) since June 2019.

The company believed that the Star Ferry is in a dilemma now it is a key part of the city's public transport system. However, the company has been facing fierce competition from MTR and bus companies, as they offer more convenient services to help passengers cross the harbour. The company admitted that the Star Ferry is "marginalised" now as it is unable to meet passengers' daily needs. Moreover, the Star Ferry said its ridership was only 9.57 million in 2021. It dropped significantly as it served 19.65 million and 17.97 million passengers in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

The Star Ferry added that its losses were way more than its assets. "To maintain our service, the Star Ferry has no choice but perhaps we cannot repay the debt even after 2047," David Chow, general manager of the Star Ferry said.

The Star Ferry is operating two routes in the city, carrying passengers between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central, and Tsim Sha Tsui to Wanchai. It also offers the World Star Water Tour, enabling tourists to explore Victoria Harbour.

Many of Hong Kong's public transport companies have been losing money in recent years due to the pandemic. Previously, Bravo Transport urged the government to include public transport operators in the upcoming round of its anti-epidemic fund, as Hong Kong is experiencing the fifth wave of the pandemic which leads to the drop in the demand for public transport services. The company is now operating Citybus and New World First Bus in Hong Kong. Both companies have suffered from a significant drop in patronage of more than 40%. Meanwhile, the patronage of the entire public transport sector has dropped by over 30%.

The company said, "Our business relies heavily on the Hong Kong Airport and cross-border routes, along with cross-harbour and commuter services. The latest work-from-home arrangements, current social distancing measures and cross-border travel restrictions have made us extremely vulnerable."

Bravo Transport said it was losing about HK$25 million a month, adding that it had an accumulated loss of about HK$379 million. In January 2022, it sold its stake of about 2.78 million shares in Octopus Holdings to MTR Corporation.

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